Kent, Ravenna communities unite to feed the hungry


The Center of Hope program manager LaJoyce Harris and Kent Social Services assistant program manager Marquice Seward with Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala and Ravenna Mayor Frank Seman to celebrate the beginning of the hunger challenge competition. 

Michael Indriolo

Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala and Ravenna Mayor Frank Seman teamed up with Family and Community Services to raise money and collect food as part of the annual hunger challenge competition this April. The mayor whose city raises the most donations by the end of the month dines on a lunch paid for by the other mayor.

“Even though the competition is there, it doesn’t really matter whether Ravenna wins or Kent wins,” Fiala said. “The real winners in this whole program are the people that are in need.” Seman shares that perspective, Fiala said. This friendly competition has gone on for nine years and though Ravenna’s mayor has changed over those years, the event’s underlying purpose has remained more important than winning.

“This time of year, you’re [near] the holidays and the cupboards start getting empty,” Seman said. “A hungry person is a hungry person. If they’re citizens of Ravenna, we need to help them, and if they’re citizens of Kent, they need to help them. And they do. They try, and we try hard to do that.”

Family and Community Services operates branches in both Kent and Ravenna. Kent Social Services features a grocery pantry and offers free hot meals Monday through Friday. The Center of Hope in Ravenna also offers hot meals Monday through Friday and, on extremely cold days, overnight shelter. To provide those daily meals, both organizations rely on donations.

“There’s months when donations are up and then there’s months when donations are down,” said Marquice Seward, Kent Social Services’ assistant program manager. “Especially over the summertime, our donations kind of plateau a little bit.”

“It helps us because when we collect this food in April, this will kind of cover those months when our donations would normally be down,” Seward said. “This does help a lot to cover months ahead.”

Although Kent Social Services and the Center of Hope are in different locations, they’re sister agencies both owned by Family and Community Services, so they often work together, she said.

“We’re all doing this for the same cause,” Seward said. “Folks I’ll have here at KSS are the same folks that might be over there in Ravenna. If they’re not getting something from here, then, hey, they’re over there. They’re still getting their needs met.”

Despite the effort of such agencies, hunger is still a significant problem in this area, she said.

“I don’t think that people realize that there are actually people who really, really struggle day-to-day just to be able to provide one meal for their family,” Seward said. “So, hey, if we can help with three days, then that’s three days more than what a family would normally have.”

Michael Indriolo covers social services. Contact him at [email protected].